The remnants of two storm systems that converged in drought-stricken California this week helped pump new life into one of Yosemite National Park’s most popular attractions: Yosemite Falls.
“We had quite a storm,” the park said in an Instagram post on Tuesday, after more than six inches of rain fell over a 36-hour period. The park encompasses more than 747,000 acres along the central western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in east-central California.
Although the park said it did not have direct measurements, it said that “sensors suggest a few feet of snow fell at the higher elevations,” and that the snow level for much of the storm “was high,” which caused rivers and creeks “to rise substantially.” The Merced River at the Pohono Bridge rose 8.5 feet, the park said, noting it was 1.5 feet below flood stage.
At 2,425 feet high, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America. Its peak flow usually occurs in May, after most of the park’s snow melts, but by August it often slows to a trickle or is completely dry. Storms in the late fall can help restore the falls.
Video showed the nearly dry falls on Saturday, followed by a gushing flow of water by Tuesday.
The rainfall at Yosemite was the result of two storms that converged in the Bay Area, bringing floods, high winds and some much-needed rain to California, which has wrestled with large wildfires and severe drought conditions that have been brought on by climate change.
“It’s a rare event,” Brian Ochs, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, Calif., said of the heavy rainfall. “It’s not just in October or anytime during the year.”
He said part of the reason for the replenished flow was the parched soil from the past few months.
“The dry soil may have been less likely to absorb the water,” he said.
San Francisco saw at least four inches of rain in a 24-hour period, the city’s fourth wettest day ever, the Weather Service said on Monday. Sacramento also set a daily record, with more than five inches of rain. Forecasters paid tribute with a haiku:
We did ask for rain
We begged and pleaded for it
And boy did it come
But the record rains will not end California’s ongoing drought.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the state’s drought emergency and asked residents to redouble their water conservation efforts.
This has been California’s second driest year on record, with near-record low storage in the state’s largest reservoirs, according to the governor’s office.
Severe drought conditions, worsened by climate change, continue to affect much of the Western United States and even the northern part of the Great Plains.